Storms rake swath of Minn. with hail and high winds; sandbaggers confront rising water

National Park Service workers
National Park Service workers fill sandbags at the City Beach near International Falls Monday.
John Enger/MPR News

More waves of heavy rain and severe storms rumbled into Minnesota on Monday on top of damaging storms that drenched the state over the weekend, prompting Gov. Mark Dayton to cancel a planned visit to view flood damage in the southwest corner of the state.

Weekend storms dumped as much as 4 inches of rain at Luverne in the southwest corner of Minnesota and over 5 inches in some areas near International Falls on the state's northern border, and they packed wind gusts as high as 68 mph at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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Severe thunderstorms popped up again in southwestern Minnesota on Monday afternoon, and the National Weather Service said areas to the north were at risk as well, including the Twin Cities area. Additional waves of showers and thunderstorms were forecast through Friday.

Pipestone County reported 3.5 inches of rain Monday, the weather service said. A wind gust measuring 79 mph was reported in Jackson, while hail estimated at an inch in diameter fell near Jackson and tree branches were knocked down.

Dayton had planned to visit Luverne and Edgerton on Monday afternoon before he canceled his trip. Instead, he spoke with local officials via telephone conference call, and planned to use a previously scheduled trip to the region to meet with local officials Friday about storm damage and recovery efforts. He also announced plans to travel north to International Falls on Tuesday morning to meet with local officials and assess flood damage in Koochiching County.

Authorities activated the State Emergency Operations Center to help affected residents respond to the damage. The announcement said it was just a partial activation that requires officials from various agencies to determine whether state resources are needed for the recovery effort. No local officials have requested state resources so far, it said.

The state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division said local officials were assessing damage to 12 township and county roads in Rock County. More than 6 inches of rain fell in Pipestone County, flooding roads in 75 locations in the Edgerton area and washing out the road to a bridge on the Rock-Pipestone County line, it said.

Thousands still without power Tuesday

About 4,700 Xcel Energy customers in the Twin Cities were without power Tuesday morning after the Monday storms.

"Most of these power outages are wind-related," said Xcel Energy spokeswoman Patti Nystuen. "When the ground is this saturated, it loosens trees and they may pull out of the ground. So we had limbs coming down. That was our biggest problem, limbs falling on the (power) lines."

In all, more than 20,000 customers around Mankato, the Twin Cities, Red Wing and Winona were affected, according to the company's Twitter account.

Sandbagging in NW Minnesota

Torrential rains over the Rainy River basin are causing record setting floods along Minnesota's border with Canada.

Six inches of rain in the past four days pushed Rainy Lake more than a foot into what the International Joint Commission, which regulates water flow on reservoirs along the border, considers flood stage.

A U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Manitou Falls shows the Rainy River rose nearly 10 feet since the beginning of the month -- pushing this flood past a record set in 1950.

Those rising waters are currently threatening roughly a dozen homes and cabins on the lake shore and along the Rainy River, said Koochiching Sheriff's Department Capt. Jon Froemke. Many more home owners are building up sandbag walls as waters continue to rise.

Froemke ran the sandbagging nerve center Monday at City Beach in Rainier, Minnesota. Scores of volunteers rushed around him, Bobcats lifting heavily laden pallets, locals filling woven sacks by the shovel full and a crew of National Park Service workers operating a large sandbag machine.

Since Thursday, Froemke said hundreds of volunteers filled more than 85,000 sandbags and that should top 100,000 by Tuesday.

Damage in Wisconsin

Emergency management officials said severe storms that swept through southern Wisconsin early Tuesday have damaged more than a dozen structures in Dane County, including homes and an elementary school.

Josh Wescott of Dane County Emergency Management said most of the damage centered on the north side of Verona and the southwest side of Madison. No injuries have been reported.

Lt. David Dresser of the Verona Police Department said at least 15 structures were damaged, including Country View Elementary School, which partially collapsed.

Wescott said the office received reports of collapsed homes and missing roofs.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Davis said imagery indicates a tornado likely cycled from Green County into Dane County.

He said the Weather Service received reports of downed power lines and trees in Green County.


MPR News reporters Liala Helal and John Enger contributed to this story.

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